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Homeowner Takes On Legal Battle To Reclaim Property After Feud With Man

An El Paso family told ABC-7 its act of kindness is turning into a devastating ordeal.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” said Linda Zavala.

Zavala’s mother, Elisa Pena, owns a home in far east El Paso. Zavala said she and her mother agreed to let a man named Raicardo Jimenez and his family temporarily stay at the home in November at a mutual friend’s request.

“It’s the time of giving,” said Zavala.

Zavala said her mother made it clear the offer was only good for two nights while Jimenez and his family found a different place to stay.

“(Jimenez) indicated he was interested in residing permanently at the home with my mother and she indicated that not only was the home not for rent, she was not interested in having them as her personal guests,” said Zavala.

So when the Jimenezes did not leave after two nights, Pena had the locks changed. “She posted a note (for Jimenez) indicating that he contact her to remove his personal belongings and asked that the police be involved,” said Zavala.

However, once authorities arrived, they did not side with the homeowner. According to Zavala, they demanded that Pena surrender the keys to Jimenez.

“She wasn’t allowed to go in her own home to get a coat, a toothbrush — nothing,” said Zavala.

Jimenez had told authorities he had made a verbal lease agreement regarding the home and was being illegally locked out. Jimenez maintained that was the case in a phone interview with ABC-7.

“Linda Zavala and I had an agreement. She denied the agreement and she lied,” said Jimenez.

Zavala said no such agreement was ever made. A justice of the peace heard both sides and ruled in favor of Jimenez.

“(The justice of the peace) determined that although the court considered (Jimenez) to be a squatter, that it was going to be considered an illegal lockout. We are trying to understand how this could possibly happen,” said Zavala.

Justice of the Peace Monice Teran could not comment when ABC-7 sought her out for answers. However, the Texas Property Code indicates verbal lease agreements are valid and do not need to be written in order to count. That makes the existence of a Jimenez-Pena lease a case of “he said, she said.” In a lease, proper notice needs to be given before a lockout can occur.

Because of the ruling, Jimenez has legal rights to the house, though he said he has chosen not to live in the house anymore anyway.

“I moved out of the house immediately, as soon as the court gave me the right to open the house,” he said.

However, Jimenez has not surrendered the keys. He said he will when a court orders him to do so.

Linda Zavala and her mother have now hired an attorney to help them with the eviction process, which could take weeks. They must continue paying utilities on the home in the meantime.

Jimenez admitted to ABC-7 he was evicted from another home months ago under different circumstances.

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